By and large, there are three different arenas that the bulk of human endeavors broadly fall into, and these are industry, academia, and research. The three are often closely interrelated, and it’s often difficult to be in one without also being in the other.

College professors, as you might have guessed, are people at the very top of the second and the third of these aforementioned arenas.

A professor is not an easy designation to get early in life, since most universities ask for a post-doctoral teaching and research experience of several decades before hiring somebody as a professor. However, exceptional examples do exist.

How to become a College Professor?

Age 21: Complete Bachelor’s degree in discipline of your choice

Age 23: Complete Master’s degree in a discipline of your choice

Age 28-32: Complete PhD in discipline of your choice

Age 34-36: Post-doctoral research of up to four or six years

Age 36: Join a university as an assistant professor in your discipline

Age 41-45: Get promoted to the position of associate professor

Age 50-55: Get promoted to the position of Professor

Age 60+: Retire from work, but continue as an Emeritus Professor for as long as you like.

A long road behind you, and a long road ahead, and as Neil Young sang, if you follow every dream, you might get lost.

If you’re still in high school and you want to be a professor, ask yourself this: is there are field of study that you’re willing to go on studying for as long as you live? If the answer is yes, then you’re up for the game.

But if you suspect that after a point, you might get tired of the classroom and the books and would want to go out into the world pursuing other exciting possibilities, then do that! Remember, either way, you’re not going to become a professor for the next several decades.

Professor teaching in a class

A Day in the Life of a College Professor

Well hello there, I teach physics in one of the most reputed universities in India. My journey here has been long and eventful, and I’m delighted to learn of your interest in my profession. Let me show you what a day in my shoes is like:

8:00 AM: I typically reach university an hour before my first class, which is from nine through eleven. After all these decades of teaching physics, I rarely have to consult books or notes to handle this class, but still, it pays to recall where you left off and what is expected of you in the next few hours.

9:00 AM: I reach my first class. It’s a quantum mechanics unit taken by second year masters students, so it’s quite advanced as a field of study.

Today, I’ll be continuing teaching on something called the Quantum Field Theory. A handful of the students take a lot of interest, and I love teaching them.

11:00 AM: I walk back to my study from the class to see two of my PhD students waiting outside. Right now, I supervise three PhD students and an MSc research student.

All of them have projects involving markov-chain monte-carlo (MCMC) simulations that I am working on. As a rule, I meet them for two hours in a group every Monday morning at eleven. Wonder what the other two are at.

12:00 PM: These meetings are highly entertaining and eventful, since not only do we get to talk about applied research work at utmost depth, I myself learn new things that have developed since the time I was a student.

For example, when I was a student, we programmed in languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN, and FoxPro. Out of these, only FORTRAN remains – the others have been replaced by object-oriented languages that developed after I became a professor.

One of my PhD students is working on a state of the art molecular dynamics package named LAMMPS that has just been developed, and I don’t know the first thing about it. Fortunately, professors typically do not have to have hands-on experience with the methodological aspects of research. My role is just to direct people how to do their own work.

1:00 PM: There’s a research group meeting involving three of my department colleagues, also professors, and we’re going to talk about the procurement of a new piece of equipment known as a differential thermal analyzer.

The process of buying expensive lab equipment can get very tiring, and there’s a lot of red-tape involved. Fortunately, our project management division takes care of most of it, and all we have to deal with are these meetings where specific research requirements over the next several years need to be put on paper.

Civil servant

3:00 PM: The next two hours are what I call my office hours. This is the time of the week where I stay in my study for any students to come and discuss questions about their studies.

Typically, I do not get much of a turnout, except before the exam when the place gets annoyingly crowded. All I have today is a lone M.Sc student with a handful of numerical problems.

I help her get a grasp on the problem solving techniques involved in solving statistical mechanical problems, recommend a textbook for it, and give her a contact of a post-doctoral fellow under me who can help her with subsequent issues.

5:00 PM: For the last hour I have mostly been reading up on existing literature pertaining to my areas of research, tending to email correspondence, writing recommendations for ex-students, and looking into the prospect of sending one of my students over to an international conference next month. I’ll be calling it a day in a few minutes’ time and head home.

This is what a typical day in my life looks like. Do you want to become like me? We hope this article have added something valuable to your research about this profession. Have your say in the comment box below. Enjoy Reading!

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